The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Elizabeth Holmes

Supporting NQTs: ideas to implement

Are you meeting the needs of your NQTs? Elizabeth Holmes offers practical ideas to ensure your newly qualified teachers feel valued and motivated.

Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be. Ralph Waldo Emerson If my inbox is anything to go by, this is the time of year when newly qualified teachers can be particularly swamped by all that is expected of them. Yes, they are nearing the end of their second term in the job, with many major milestones behind them, but the fatigue of winter can take its toll and continuing to drive forwards can feel like a slog. Besides, by now, a sizeable number will have already decided that the job is not for them in the long-term. Having held many focus groups with NQTs over the years it is clear that certain issues are a cause for concern year after year. Interestingly, while behaviour management is a worry for many during their initial teacher education, once they get into the classroom many understand that it is about relationship and time, clear expectations, standards and persistence. But workload management remains a challenge, as does prioritising time and retaining a sense of wellbeing. Many, too, seem to feel that they are not given the time and space to develop the skills that interest them most; rather, they are offered development opportunities that  fit more closely with the needs of the school or the department.

Ideas to implement

Use the following ideas to ensure that the needs of your NQTs are being met: Encourage: Don’t underestimate the power of well-placed positive words. They can be enough to transform a bad day and refresh the exhausted. Yet too often, NQTs complain that those in a position to do this are too pushed for time themselves to notice. It only takes a minute, but we know its value to new teachers is great. Recognise unique skills: There is nothing more demoralising at work than having your special talents ignored or having no opportunity to develop them further. If NQTs arrive in your school with special skills, use them; help them feel valued. It seems that too often we waste talent. Challenge: Confidence is built through pushing beyond comfort zones. If your NQTs look too comfortable the chances are they need to be challenged more, to help them develop confidence and belief in their abilities, as well as that all-important intrinsic motivation. Turn tables: Encourage NQTs to run training sessions for other staff members. There is so much that we can learn from one another and teaching can be a very effective way of consolidating what we know. Step up the observations: Observations can be very powerful, whether as observer or being observed. While the schedule of observations of NQTs will have been agreed some time ago, encourage NQTs to observe others. As long as these observations have some specific purpose, the chances are NQTs will gain from them. Critical incident debriefing: Too often NQTs say they are left to deal with the psychological aftermath of so-called critical incidents (a lesson going badly wrong or an altercation with a pupil etc). While the incident itself may not seem serious, the impact on an NQT can be profound without the chance to talk it through or at least reflect on it in a safe space. Never underestimate the value of adequate debriefing in order to find perspective and equilibrium.

Newly qualified teachers say that relatively small professional development interventions at this stage of the year can have a profound impact, so even a brief review of what your school offers could prove to be fruitful. By Elizabeth Holmes

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